Putting the Christmas story to music in Leipzig
Posted on: 13th December 2021
CMS missionaries Klaus and Jude Hickel serve at Leipzig English Church in Germany. Jude is also involved in composing and translating songs for use in church. She shares how she uses the Christmas season to ‘give’ the gospel through music.
Living in Germany, I am spoilt with the trappings of Christmas. There are gorgeous Christmas markets, beautifully made advent wreaths, delicious biscuits, and mulled wine (well, there is when COVID isn’t wreaking havoc!). But the main reason why I am so passionate about Christmas is because it is such a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel.
Piecing together the snippets of Christmas
Most people here have some knowledge of the nativity story or are vaguely familiar with Christmas carols. But these snippets of the true Christmas, where Jesus sometimes gets a mention, are like random puzzle pieces that don’t fit together.
I find that people are often more open to attending church events at Christmas time than they would be at other times of the year. So, it’s a perfect time to connect with people where they are at and show them how the puzzle fits together, to discover an eternal reason to celebrate! And we should not forget that Christmas is also the season of giving, which means ample opportunities to gift the gospel.
The gift of the gospel in music
To this end, I have written three musical Christmas books over the last three years, Happily Ever After, O Christmas Tree and The Miracle in the Manger. My goal has been twofold. Firstly, to help children (and their parents) understand the gospel message of Christmas; and secondly, to give Christians the opportunity to use the books to gift the gospel to not-yet-Christians in their families and neighbourhoods.
Living in Leipzig, which is predominantly atheistic, means that I can’t expect any knowledge of the Christmas story that is presented in the Bible. Therefore, to reach local children, I used nursery rhymes with altered lyrics to tell the story of Jesus’ birth in Happily Ever After. With songs like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Great Big Star’ and ‘Old Innkeeper had a Barn’, I chose melodies that were familiar to all children and filled them with gospel truth.
“We should not forget that Christmas is also the season of giving, which means ample opportunities to gift the gospel.”
Using fun guessing games and well-known Christmas songs with tweaked lyrics, O Christmas Tree, explains the original tradition of decorating Christmas trees, that points to the gospel. For instance, the Christmas tree reminds us of the Tree of Life, and the baubles remind us of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—both our sin and God’s grace. This led me to one of my favourite adaptations: ‘Deck the Halls’. ‘Deck the tree with lots of baubles … they remind us sin is awful’.
Showing the depth of the Christmas story
This year, with Klaus’s help, I wrote the book, The Miracle in the Manger, to help families marvel together at the miracle of Jesus’ birth. The book explores this miracle through storytelling, the Bible accounts of the first Christmas, Old Testament prophecies, reflections on these Bible texts, archaeological tidbits, and thought-provoking illustrations.
The Miracle in the Manger is written in a way so that non-yet-Christians can readily understand it. But my main goal is to help families dig deeper into the Christmas accounts in the gospels, to see their connection with God’s plan and his promise of salvation, and discover a few sources outside the Bible that back up its claims. This book is woven together with a new song, ‘The Miracle of Christmas’. It summarises who Jesus is and why he has come, and my prayer is that it will encourage the gospel to sink into our hearts and be on our lips.
A decade of ministry in Leipzig (and being married to a native German-speaker) has meant that I could write these books in both German and English. As they are given to families and children, please pray that they will be a blessing to those who receive them, revealing the wonder of Jesus—God’s miracle in the manger.
Pray that many families and children will read the Miracle in the Manger, and so be led to explore more of the Christian faith and who Jesus is.